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Allow People to Resign

Losing talent continues to be an important issue that needs to be addressed in any company in this day and age where the success of any enterprise can be made or broken by the people running it.  It’s not surprising that the topic of how to reduce if not completely eradicate attrition always comes up.  It doesn’t help that sometimes there are institutionalized policies that are just counter-productive for this end, unfortunately; it’s partly this stupidity that drives people away.

For example, how a company implements employee health care can be disastrous if not thought out well.  Living and productive employees are profitable because they generate revenue for the company.  Dead or injured employees are an expense because they just add to the operating costs.  Thus from a purely business operator perspective, it is important that employees take care of themselves; the company’s profitability, that is, the ability to generate revenue, is the true driver for companies to take care of their employees.  After all, objectively speaking we’re not human beings but human resources that need to be managed.  Any modern-day company always has a whole department setup just to manage human resources.  Now if you make it difficult and expensive for your employees to take care of themselves, then you’re affecting your company’s ability to generate revenue.  In the long run this in turn will drive people away and into other companies that can offer them a better deal.

When you see your people as revenue generators rather than human beings, it’s no surprise if you encounter difficulty retaining them.

We are all responsible for our own happiness.  People who want to leave your company are simply doing what they need to do to get what they want.  We should allow people to resign if they want to explore opportunities elsewhere, if there’s a place that can give them what they need and want.  Besides, all things considered, we can’t legally stop people from leaving the company anyway.

Contrary to the belief that “it’s just business,” work is a very personal matter.  For as long as it is people who are doing what needs to be done instead of machines, it will always remain personal.  Because work is personal, we have to do whatever we feel is in our best interest.

The thing about doing what’s in our best interest is not always about money.  If it were purely so then the solution would be to throw more money at your people to keep them.  But the reality is that people still leave no matter how much you give.  It’s okay if people leave because they found a better paying position elsewhere; but if they leave because their boss is a jerk then that’s a very concerning reason, to say the least.

On a related note: People will always ask for more money.  After all, a lack of money is definitely very distracting.  However will there ever be enough?  How much can be considered “enough?”  It will be impossible to please those who choose to never be satisfied.  In any case work is more than just money; the thing is, with more money also comes more work.  There is always a price to pay, and even with more money sometimes the situation only gets worse, and people still leave.

Speaking for myself, I would rather have my best people leave to find happiness in their careers rather than keep them as disgruntled employees just doing the needful, especially if I can’t give them what they want, or worse, what they need.  A company’s top performers have every right to expect more from the business since the latter expects a lot from them.  Ironically, by virtue of being the top performers they are in the best position to go because they have a better chance of finding someplace else.  If you can’t give them what they want because you don’t have it then let them go.

And guess what: Occasionally those who leave are your demoralized people, too.  Do you really want to keep these kinds of people in your ranks?  These “flight risks” can also hold your company hostage in more ways than one, especially if they occupy sensitive positions.  They can demand a better counter-offer and threaten to leave if you don’t have any.  What are you to do then?

If these demoralized employees want to leave you, then aren’t they doing a favor for you already, for with no effort on your part they are getting rid of themselves from your company?  As difficult as it may be, in the long run you’ll be better off without them, and so you might as well give them what they want – leaving your company – and help them out the door.

If you want to win the war to get and retain talent, non-compete clauses or similarly harassing techniques are not the way to win the hearts of your people.  Compete by giving them something that will differentiate your company from the competition.  People are willing to stay in their current jobs even if there are higher paying opportunities elsewhere if they feel their life and career aspirations can be met in your organization.  In other words: If you want your talent to stay, find ways to make them happy.

In the meantime, it’s not fair to hold back somebody from pursuing something that might actually be better than what your company has to offer.  For all you know, you could be doing the same thing one day.

Your company might actually be a wonderful place to work, but at the end of the day, this is still a place to work.  Do not expect people to build their lives around your business – actually be worried if they do, for such isn’t good and healthy for everybody.

It would be selfish to try and keep people who want to leave.  We need to see beyond our need and recognize and respect the other person’s desire to chart and pursue his own destiny, even if that means it’s going to happen outside of your company.

Categories: Ideas and Philosophy
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